Sixty-first anniversary of Salk’s polio vaccine: Attack on polio team kills policeman in Balochistan, cases found in Cameroon

Dr Jonas Salk

QUETTA: At least one police man was killed on Thursday when suspected militants attacked a polio team in Balochistan’s Loralai district, police said.

Shah Muhammad, a police official told Dawn.com that unknown armed men on motorcycle opened fire on a polio team in Nasarabad area of Loralai.

He said one police man guarding the polio team workers was killed on the spot. “The militants sped away on their motorcycle after the attack”, Muhammad said.

The polio team was engaged in an anti polio drive in Loralai bazar when it came under attack by the suspected militants.

Moreover, police and levies personnel reached the spot and started an investigation of the incident.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Polio teams in Quetta, Pishin and other parts of Balochistan had been repeatedly attacked by militants in the past.

Also, attacks on part of militants have affected the anti-polio drive in Balochistan.

Related: Regional insecurity fuels polio in Cameroon: YAOUNDÉ, 26 March 2014 (IRIN) – Three new polio cases have been confirmed in Cameroon over the past two weeks, making it the country’s first outbreak since 2011 and causing alarm among health officials who link the virus’s spread to weak vaccine campaign coverage and displacement following violence in neighbouring northeastern Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Cameroon has confirmed seven polio cases since 2013. Just one case is enough to instigate emergency country-wide vaccination measures under the national health policy. It last experienced a polio outbreak in 2009, the strain also identified in Nigeria and Chad.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the virus is at a “very high risk” of crossing borders, and one polio case of the same strain as in Cameroon has just been confirmed in Equatorial Guinea, which saw its last case in 1999.

Related: On this date in history: Salk announces polio vaccine: On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he had successfully tested a vaccine to combat poliomyelitis, the virus that causes polio.

The previous year had seen 58,000 new cases of polio reported in the U.S., with more than 3,000 dying from the disease. Polio attacks the nervous system, causing varying stages of paralysis. Children were especially susceptible to the disease, but adults – including future president Franklin D. Roosevelt* – were also affected by polio.

Salk perfected the procedure initially tried by Maurice Brodie in the 1930s, which injected dead strains of the virus into a healthy person’s bloodstream. The person’s body would then build up antibodies to resist live versions of the virus in the future.

In April 1955, it was announced that the vaccine was safe and a nationwide inoculation began. Now, there are only a few of polio cases reported each year.

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*Franklin D. Roosevelt’s paralytic illness began in 1921 at age 39, when he got a fever after exercising heavily during a vacation in Canada. While Roosevelt’s bout with illness was well known during his terms as President of the United States, the extent of his paralysis was kept from public view. After his death, his illness and paralysis became a major part of his image. He was diagnosed with poliomyelitis two weeks after he fell ill. A 2003 retrospective study favored a diagnosis of Guillain–Barré syndrome, a conclusion criticized by other researchers.

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